It was a chilly yet sunny Saturday afternoon in October when I descended the platform of the Old Trafford Metrolink stop via the Altrincham line and headed straight towards Manchester United's home ground down Sir Matt Busby Way. I'd arrived early in the day to fulfill my life's purpose which left me plenty of time to snatch my tickets, have a stroll and soak up some of the incredible match day atmosphere that engulfed my surroundings.
After meeting my ticket 'contact' at a local pub called the Bishop's Blaze, I found a convenient little cart just outside of the pub serving fish n chips and fresh grilled sausage replete with delicious peppers and onions to assist me in my pre-match nutrition. I chose the latter which ended up being quite the tasty decision. After my little snack, I continued down Sir Matt Busby Way and entered into Old Trafford to see my beloved Manchester United go up 2-0 v West Brom only to concede that lead and draw the match 2-2.
It was a shaky performance from the Red Devils but an incredible day out and an experience I won't soon forget. During my time at Old Trafford, I sang, chanted and cheered on United with 76,000 supporters which proved an adequate reward from all the saving and planning that went into my first trip to the UK from the States.
Follow Jesse's football writing on twitter @JesseChula.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Besides the rolling cart where I purchased my sausage and chips (for around £5, roughly $8), there were plenty of local shops and street vendors around and outside of Old Trafford offering a myriad of different foods. Burgers, curries, pies and beer were all incredibly accessible close to the stadium and all for around the same price.
One can purchase beer and food inside of Old Trafford for slightly more but it should be noted that beer is not permitted at seats or outside of designated areas. A beer and a pie inside of the stadium was £5.50.
For those new to English football, the atmosphere at grounds is often times unmatched to that of American sports. Crowd songs and chants have been a part of English football for ages while the overwhelming majority of the crowd watches the match with an intense and acute eye. That said, there are times when Old Trafford falls sadly quiet for stretches of the match until supporters in the Stretford End bring the atmosphere back with a clever song.
Most supporters stay until the final whistle is blown while nothing meets the excitement, roar and vibe around the stadium when a goal is scored.
The immediate area surrounding Old Trafford seemed to be safe, well occupied and with plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants to discover. Like many large cities in Britain, Manchester is comprised of a number of small neighborhoods forming one large city. Old Trafford stadium is located in the borough of Trafford - one of a number of boroughs forming Greater Manchester.
The City Center of Manchester is only ten minutes away from Old Trafford where plenty more shops, restaurants and most important of all, pubs, are available. Manchester also boasts a pretty hip night life that can be enjoyed on weekends after matches - be careful though, some pubs in Manchester don't allow football colors of any kind in hopes they can avoid trouble between United and Manchester City supporters.
There are a couple of places I can recommend for dining or drinking before or after a game. 15-20 minutes from Trafford, Pesto Bar E Ristorante Italiano is definitely worth your time for a nice dinner out. Delicious Italian food served in the tapas style can be washed down with the equally delicious and ice cold Peroni Lager.
Second, The Bank in Manchester is a great traditional English pub to check out on match day, either before or after the game. A number of quality beers are available on draft in the form of popular European lagers, local Ales, and even of few unknown, but interesting beers.
Great pub food at good prices including pies, burgers, sandwiches and a good, humming atmosphere to boot. Dinner for two, depending on how much beer you drink, comes in around $30-$40.
As touched on before, fans inside of Old Trafford on match day are well educated in terms of football knowledge and are as diverse as they come. People from all over the world travel to Manchester each weekend to see United's stars take the pitch against the best footballers the Premier League has to offer.
Manchester United is one of the most successful clubs in European football and have won the Premier League 11 times, the old first division title seven times, the European Cup three times and a number of domestic Cups since their inception. United's fans, while sometimes criticized by others as spoiled and annoying, remain some of the most passionate fans in world football.
Unless you're a citizen of Manchester, you'll likely be taking a taxi or train to the stadium. Although no difficult task to navigate, one should leave plenty of time to catch a train and walk a short distance to Old Trafford on match day. When 76,000 people descend upon one small area, long lines can be expected.
Train tickets from the Manchester City Center to Old Trafford were around £2 or £3 round trip. Restrooms were readily available inside of the stadium while public restrooms outside were not.
As a long time United supporter and football writer, the Old Trafford experience was definitely worth the money involved. Depending on how big of a supporter you are will decide whether or not you feel as if you're getting a good return on investment. It's no secret that traveling abroad is not cheap. Plane tickets, lodging, and the exchange rate will all be against you if you're an American traveling to the UK. Take these costs into consideration and budget to spend more than you think you actually will.
Two match tickets cost me around $90 but the seats were great. If you're a passionate United fan, definitely take the time to save, plan and go see United.
Old Trafford has a fantastic fan shop open most days which houses plenty of merchandise in the form of replica jerseys, footballs, beanies, T-shirts, DVD's and so much more. Also a must for fans is the Manchester United museum and stadium tour which is available most days except match days for £13.
During the stadium tour, fans get a guided behind the scenes look at the famous ground which includes the chance to take plenty of photos and see the players' changing room.
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